|MIX VERDICT: MAAT FIDEF JENTWO PLUG-IN
|THE TAKEAWAY: “I now include FiDefJENtwo on almost all of my masters for the musicality and likability it seems to bring to the music.”
|COMPANY: MAAT • www.maat.digital
• Adds subtlety and definition.
• That subtlety can sometimes be very subtle.
New York, NY (December 2, 2022)—In the often-hyperbolized world of audio, phrases such as “psychoacoustic process” and “no user controls” are enough to draw the lurking cynic out of hype-weary engineers, so when I heard about FideliQuests’s FiDef process being included in MAAT’s thEQblue plug-in equalizer, I wasn’t terribly intrigued. Now that MAAT is marketing FiDef JENtwo as a stand-alone plug-in (the newest update is a Universal Binary 2 version compatible with newer Macs/silicon processors), I became more interested, especially considering that a growing group of A-listers recommending the mysterious process for their masters and mixes.
The concept is that a broadband, sub-audible, correlated, dynamic, spectrally shaped signal, when added to the original signal, can increase the brain’s attention to the audio, revealing detail and making sounds more engaging and pleasurable to hear. The effect is initially subtle even as it grows more apparent over time; perception of the effect has been documented with laboratory tests of brain activity via neuro-imaging techniques.
FDJ2 requires no adjustment or parameters, although five Profiles are offered to maximize versatility. Truckin is the subtle, most universal, default algorithm. Truckin Hush has a lower perception of the effect, best for solo performances (where the effect may become too audible) or frequent low-level dynamics. Sutro focuses more on higher-frequency enhancement, with Resno on upper-mids, and finally Evose, a more pronounced Resno.
Many users report success with FDJ2 inserted on instrument buses, vocals, whole mixes and multiple instances (at different settings) on masters, but I started out with a single FDJ2 inserted after my final limiter in a mastering session.
Using Truckin, I toggled bypass as I intently focused on the soundstage before me, only to find no benefit. I finally “got the assignment” and allowed myself to analytically disconnect and unfocus my intent until I heard the mix as a whole, revealing more inner detail and making it “more alive.” Now I could not only hear bypass clearly, but I could also discern Profile differences: Truckin was the most natural and subtle, Sutro was more defined and airy, Resno seemed quite vocally focused, and Evose was a bit too pronounced.
Subsequent tests with other songs/artists were typically quite similar, but sometimes yielded no apparent differences, or a difference that was no better, no worse. These inconsistencies were not genre-related, nor quality-related, and may have more to do with my mental variations. Null tests revealed noise akin to pink-noise, pulsing with the rhythm at about -45 to -50 dB LUFS. I tried subjecting my clients to blind A/B tests with their mixes, but the results were inconclusive.
Some users report low-end refinement, others claim more width and depth; I often found a “backlighting” effect. In photography, with a light behind your subjects, they will seem nearly outlined, with crisp edges and neat definition, each member in a group pleasingly highlighted. That approximates FDJ2’s effect upon my lead vocals, top-line instruments and the mix as a whole.
I now include FiDefJENtwo on almost all of my masters for the musicality and likability it seems to bring to the music. No, I cannot verify the improvement with blind tests or concrete proof, but my clients are requesting almost no master revisions lately, and anything that makes my work even a little bit more effective and entertaining is fine by me, user-controls or not.